This generally falls under the banner of “forced pregnancy” – an encompassing term, and one that I’ve found myself writing about often of late. There are the news stories about Poland, for example, where the government and Church are pushing to tighten laws around abortion
, meaning that many pregnant Polish women would be forced to give birth whether they feel that they want to or not. In Ireland, brave women
continuously campaign against the Eighth Amendment
, which forbids abortion except in cases where the pregnancy is likely to lead to the mother's death.
What is usually under-reported when it comes to forced pregnancy, is the number of girls around the globe who are forced to have children while they are still below the statutory age of consent. There is an endemic situation that we hear very little about, whereby girls who are considered too young to have consensual sex are being made – usually involuntary – to give birth to children, often, when they are still children themselves. In fact, in 2013 the UNFPA
estimated that two million births take place each year to girls under 15 years of age around the world.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, thousands of young girls are forced to become mothers. In 2012, the number of births to girls under 14 years in 12 countries alone in the region was a staggering 60,690. While I spent my preadolescence misguidedly whining about not starting my period earlier, for these young girls, starting their periods at a young age has cost them their childhoods, as well as their health and – in some grave cases
– their lives.
An NGO called CLADEM (Child Mothers: Forced Child Pregnancies and Maternities in Latin America and the Caribbean) have been looking into this issue for a while. They’ve found that, in these regions, most child pregnancies are caused by sexual abuse – often by members of the underage girl in question’s family. Impunity for such violence is likely to be at least 90%, and according to CLADEM, “Where laws protecting girls from sexual violence including child pregnancy and forced childbirth do exist, they are rarely implemented.”